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Danil Mikhailov, Instructor, Fujian White Crane Kung Fu & Tai Chi Martial Arts


I split my time between training and teaching Kung Fu, doing my own PhD research, and running Wellcome Data Labs, an innovative technology team at one of the world’s biggest scientific research foundations. Not to mention my most important job of being a father to my two wonderful children: my daughter, Olive, and my son, Max. So to say I was busy would be putting it mildly!

Without Kung Fu, and the energy, discipline and focus it provides, I do not think I could do it all. Simple as that.

Kung Fu as an art form has this unique property that when practised correctly it can help invigorate every other part of your life. That is why in ancient China Kung Fu was counted as one of the Five Arts that every member of the nobility was expected to learn at a young age and then perfect throughout their life. I try to live up to that same ideal.

Is it always easy? Definitely, no. Life takes its own twists and turns and sometimes it feels like the thing you have least time for is yourself, your own health and improvement. My message to students who ask me what to do in these periods is simple: double down, try harder to find the time for your own Kung Fu. You will reap the benefits for the rest of your life.

In fact, sometimes the busiest years are when you are the most creative. In my case, 2012, the year my daughter was born and when I was going through that shocked adjustment to a new reality of little sleep all new parents go through, was also the year I wrote my first book. Well, I had to do something during the sleepless nights!

That book, “The History and Philosophy of Kung Fu: An Introduction,” was a culmination of fifteen years of research and frequent fieldtrips to China, as part of the Wushu Scholar Magazine’s editorial team. In 2014 I had the honour of being made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of this work.

I still travel to China regularly twenty years after my first visit. I will never tire of exploring that beautiful country, so rich with history and culture. I do not think you can truly understand Kung Fu without experiencing it in the land of its creation. Unsurprisingly, it is also the place where the most prestigious Kung Fu competitions are staged. I have been keeping those competitive juices flowing by taking part in as many as I can. My reward so far has been five gold medals and three silver medals won in China. Needless to say, the children get to wear them more than I!